Our Blog Posts will help you reach your full potential in becoming a confident conversationalist. New topics each week.
Happy Thanksgiving week! There is a good chance you’ll be expected to make casual conversation this week with friends or family. There’s an equally good chance you’ll be trying to navigate potential conversation minefields. Sports can help you reign in some of the conversations and keep it light.
It’s okay to think outside the box scores and talk about “sports adjacent” topics related to a game. Think about things like location, favorite game-day food or ritual, maybe you’ve seen a concert at the same venue that’s hosting a sporting event, which can help you transition to music and other fun things you have on the calendar - all of those topics can start with sports, but end up in other fun conversations.
Of course, if you prefer to stick to sports these conversation starters can do the trick.
My current travel schedule takes me all over the country covering football and hockey. In each city I try to find something unique or local to the area. (It’s how I ended up at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store somewhere between Milwaukee and Green Bay on Saturday night, but that’s an entirely different story.)
Here’s what not unique – the way fans talk about their team and sports in general. Fan bases have their own identities, but the way they actually talk about sports is similar. That means if you have a topic and something to say, you can talk to any fan you encounter.
These sports conversation starters can help you with that this week.
Sports conversations are a great place to practice the skills you need in other conversations.
For example, diversity of thought and being inclusive at work requires the ability to listen to colleagues with different experiences and backgrounds. Practice by listening to fans with different opinions and backgrounds.
You don’t have to cheer for the same team, see eye-to-eye on a big free-agent signing or agree on the best player of all time. But you can join the conversation with the intention of listening and respecting other fans.
Here are a few topics to get those conversations started this week.
If initiating small talk isn’t your jam, then bring the conversation to you by displaying the logo of your favorite team where people can see it.
You could wear it, use a notebook or pen that has a team logo or make sure it’s in view of your Zoom background. Sports fans will pick up on it and ask.
If you do feel like striking up the conversation, these sports conversation starters will help.
If starting a conversation is intimidating or challenging for you, use this Talk Sporty 101 tactic to bring the conversation to you - wear your team's logo.
When you wear the logo of your favorite team you make it easy for other people to say something first. This strategy is particularly effective for introverts and if you're in large group settings, like parties and networking events, that might be overwhelming.
Here are a few things to remember when using this strategy:
This is a great approach if you don't want to be the first person to say something. In addition, it will help you identify other sports fans who would be open to sports small talk.
You can’t gain more confidence without practice.
As Nike taught us a long time ago – just do it.
It doesn’t get easier to strike up conversations with strangers, or initiate a sports conversation, or lead a meeting or attend a networking event unless you just do it.
Find small ways to step out of your comfort zone, like committing to a quick 30-second small talk exchange. These sports conversation starters can help with what to say.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing on the outcome of a game. It’s what most fans talk about which make scores, or at least noting a win/loss, helpful in small talk.
But there are other takeaways from games including communication and leadership lessons. I’ve outlined at least five ways you can level up your leadership skillswhile watching sports and coming up Wednesday you can join the conversation with former MLS player Roger Levesque at 10am PST. Use this link to register for free.
And of course you can use this list of sports conversation starters all week long.
Fans in stadiums have led to the highest NFL ratings in six years. That’s based on numbers through the first four weeks of the regular season. Games have drawn an average of 17.4 million viewers. Not every one of them is a hard-core fan. Not every one has been a life long fan. There are varying levels of fans but their interest in football gives you a great starting point in small talk.
There are a couple NFL headlines listed in this week’s list of sports conversation starters and if football isn’t your thing there are other sports making news too.
There’s a thought among some long-time fans that bandwagon fans aren’t “real” fans. Wrong. They’re just showing a different level and interest in sports.
If you are jumping on board and getting excited about something like the baseball playoffs don’t feel pressure to contribute to a sports conversation that’s over your head.
We all have to start somewhere. You aren’t a fraud or a faker because you know the final score of a game, but you don’t know advanced statistics and sabermetrics. You might be a novice fan but you’re still a fan and you still belong in the conversations. Take on the role of being an active listener instead of driving the interaction.
Use these conversation starters to get people around you talking.
Not all conversation starters are useful or even appropriate for small talk.
I follow a few news outlets and newsletters that offer conversation starters that are definitely topics you should know about, but not practical for quick conversations at work. They’re also potential hot button issues. Just because you should know about a topic doesn’t mean you should be talking about it in casual conversations with colleagues and coworkers.
When choosing your conversation starters make sure you consider how much time you have for the conversation, who you’re talking to and where the conversation is taking place (i.e., in an elevator vs. over lunch.)
Sports small talk fits the bill every time. It’s why I continue to offer a list of weekly sports conversation starters like these.